Let us not forget in this special centenary year of 2016, as we reflect on the 1916 Rising, the Ulster Volunteers’ role in the Battle of the Somme and the Irish Volunteers’ part in World War 1 that we have a unique opportunity in British/Irish history to consolidate peace and bring hope to future generations out of tragedy.
In this modern era, the word tragedy seems overused, however, no one who lives on this island can ignore the tragic nature of the after effects of colonisation. We live in a contested space with both British and Irish identities plus associated heartfelt beliefs and experiences.
Whatever about the Assembly election, we have to be thankful to our politicians and those beyond these shores who helped create the Good Friday and subsequent agreements. We should embrace this unique opportunity in our history where conflict is largely resolved and the principle of consent is agreed in the context of Britain acknowledging no selfish or strategic interest, the infrastructure exists for promoting justice and equality plus cross-border institutions are operational.
Politicians are often criticised and at times vilified for the views and positions they adopt, but, the reality is they reflect our views. In this new era of peace, nationalist politicians, by virtue of reasoned argument have opportunity to persuade unionists that they would be better off living in a united Ireland and that their British identity would be protected. Similarly, unionist politicians may seek to demonstrate to nationalists that their best interests lie in retaining the union with Britain and that their Irish identity would be cherished within this context. Let us see some evidence of this.
If we prize peace and recognise this unique “watershed” in British/Irish history, then, we cannot leave the consolidation of peace only to politicians. At every opportunity and in all civic systems and institutions we are involved in, we must show respect for both identities on this island. Not only that, but, we need to find a “lingua franca” for peace.
We have benefitted massively from European “peace money” plus US investment and the outworkings of this represent the fruits of peace, however, we have very few explicit symbols of peace. We need to develop some common language and symbols which reflect the unique era we live in. I hope you would agree that we have the ingenuity and talent to do so.
After centuries of conflict, let us work our way through this special year of 2016 and beyond to build on the foundations of peace in these islands for all future generations. No doubt some readers will “see” naivety, inaccuracy, over-simplification and bias in this letter, I apologise in advance for any offence caused by its content and assure you it has been written in good faith and with peace in mind. Consolidating the peace has the potential to facilitate reconciliation.
Howard (Íomhar) Rainey, Omagh